I could have made it to the top faster. I know for a fact that there was a more direct path that would have saved me some time. The wrong turn I made when halfway up definitely cost me a few minutes. But, then again, I was climbing the mountain in the dark. I'm sure I would have seen those mistakes if I'd been making my ascent during daylight. But, then again, daylight wasn't an option for me on this climb. Daylight would have meant failure.
Last week while spending Thanksgiving week in Scottsdale Arizona, I climbed Camelback Mountain. There are a couple different approaches and trails that you can take to get to the top, and I went with Echo Canyon. I started the climb a little bit before 6am and had just a sliver of moonlight to light the path ahead of me. It is a wonderful climb mixing steep paths with some pretty good bouldering and a couple "don't look down" ledges for good measure. All of which are made even more dramatic when it is tough to tell where one starts and the other begins.
As I reached the top, I knew that I had raced the day and won.
Along the clouds on the horizon, just the slightest hint of daybreak pierced the darkness. As I sat on top of the peak over looking all of the Phoenix valley, I watched as the underside of the most distant clouds began to go from the black of night to a deep ember and then to a fiery red. The light below the horizon kept growing until finally the first ray of sun rose over the mountain range. Wow. The photos that I took don't even begin to capture the incredible scene that I witnessed. But that did capture that moment in time for that is all it was. Less than a minute later, the clouds moved closer to the horizon and hide the sunrise from view.
As I smiled and flipped back through the shots that I took, a group of climbers reached the summit, cameras in hand. "We missed it," I heard them mumble, "We should have started earlier."
At the time of the sunrise, there were only three others on top of the mountain. Three other people who had set out early enough to race the day to the top of the mountain and win. Only three other people in the world saw that day begin the way that I did.
As I climbed back down the mountain a little while later, I passed countless folks headed to the top. Some asked "How was it up there?" and others kept their head down as they looked for the next step they'd take. I am sure that they probably made it to the top a little faster than I did. They probably didn't take a wrong turn or have to back track. And for most of them, getting to the top probably was the accomplishment they had set out to achieve. When they reached the top, I know they saw a great view of the Valley of the Sun, but that they'd missed the epic moment that I witnessed.
More rewards are available to those that take more risks.
Some moments in life are reserved for the trailblazers.